Let’s be honest here – sign stealing is not really “stealing,” but it sounds a whole lot sexier than “sign being-overly-observant.” (And a whole lot easier coming off the tongue.)
Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines have run into a spot of trouble over these issues in the last few days/weeks/years and you hear all sorts of reasons why it has happened.
If a third base coach is flashing signs to the runner on first base and you’ve figured out that hat-swipe-hat means steal, what is the opposing baseball team supposed to do? Disregard the information?
But, yes, if having knowledge of a low-level employee buying tickets for games involving every future opponent and using a cell phone to record the signals being sent in from the sideline is against the rules, then there’s no discussion. Whether you like it or not, it’s against the rules.
However, it does beg to offer one suggestion for all of those offended parties involved.
Certainly a radical idea, to be sure. In every freshmen baseball game, when it is discovered that the runner on second base has figured out the catcher’s signs, they call time out, the catcher walks to the mound and does what? CHANGE … THE … SIGNS!
But hey, why should we let freshmen baseball players look like bunch of Einsteins compared to these college football coaching geniuses.
But what about in high school football? Has this pervasive, everybody-does-it attitude on stealing signs filtered down to the high school level?
OK, maybe a little bit.
“Let’s put it this way,” says Calvary coach Rodney Guin. “If somebody is dumb enough to tap the top of their head every time to run a go route, that’s his problem.”
Guin didn’t just fall off the coaching turnip truck. He’s been a head coach since 2000, Back then, it used to be commonplace to see a swarm of coaches at a Thursday night game – especially if a future opponent was playing – at Lee Hedges Stadium. Some watching, some scouting.
These days? Hardly ever. The Hudl system, which allows schools to share videos in preparation for a future game between the two, has all but eliminated that.
“If I’m going to go to a game on Thursday night,” Guin says, “I’m going to pick the best game in town. I don’t care if we play them or not.”
Nobody is charting and they certainly aren’t using a cell phone to record anything. Nor is anybody paying a whole lot of attention to the machinations going on over on the other sideline and who might be looking back toward you. But it does happen.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve ever tried to steal any signs (from the other sideline),” says Airline coach Justin Scogin. “One, it’s because I’m very egotistical and I am very confident in what I call. Two, I think it’s a waste of time. You should spend that time worrying about your own team.”
OK, fine. But just like when the Houston Astros were banging on trash cans in the 2017 World Series to signal whether the upcoming pitch was a fastball or a non-fastball, if a high school coach got one get-out-of-jail-free card from the opposing sideline, what would it be?
“If I could know one thing?” Scogin asks, followed by a long pause and then a longer pause. “I guess (whether it’s going to be a) run or pass. But I’m a big proponent of just lining up correctly on defense and just playing.”
Mostly, though, coaches would rather put their eggs in the scouting basket, with maybe a few left over for the signal basket just in case.
“It’s easier for us to say to our kids ‘if the running back is even with the quarterback, 90 percent of the time, it’s a running play,’ ” Guin says. “There’s no signal on that.
“I know people watch when we are giving our signals because I’ll hear a DB (defensive back) say something about a certain play we are about to run,” he adds. “So we change our (signals) a lot. And sometimes we look at other teams, too. If they are going to lay them out there, we are going to look at them. But yeah, if some (coach) is giving the same signal every time, we’ll watch. If you’re not, you should be.”
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